The romance of train travel from the Lake Shore’s sightseers’ lounge continued. As the train snorted down the railroad tracks, Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous poem (1885) crossed my mind. As a child, I was fascinated by his poem:
Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
For William Wordsworth, however, poetry and railways have an uneasy coexistence. Wordsworth, who was passionate about protecting the rural beauty of Lake District, was outraged when he heard of plans to extend the railway from Kendal to Windermere. He opposed the building of the railways, thinking it would destroy the beauty of the Lake District. In addition to various letters to the Morning Post, he penned his sonnet, On the projected Kendal and Windermere Railway, using poetry to put across his protest.
I was transported to another world.
After leaving the NY Penn station, the Lake Shore stopped at Croton-Harmon (NY), Poughkeepsie (NY), Rhinecliff (NY), Albany-Rensselaer (NY), Boston (MA), Framingham (MA), Worcester (MA) and Springfield (MA) stations before chugging into Pittsfield (MA), famous for Herman Melville.
It’s in this town at Arrowhead, now known as the Herman Melville House, the author penned his famous novel Moby Dick (1851). The house was built in the 1780s as a farmhouse and inn. It was adjacent to a property owned by Melville’s uncle Thomas, where Melville had developed an attachment to the area through repeated visits. He purchased the property in 1850 with borrowed money and spent the next 12 years farming and writing there. Financial considerations prompted his family’s return to New York City in 1863, and Melville sold the property to his brother.
I was excited as I thought of Melville writing Moby Dick from his house in this town.
The train traveled past glens and lochs through the states of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana before entering Illinois. It stopped at Schenectady, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Erie, Cleveland, Elyria, Sandusky, Toledo, Bryan, Waterloo, Elkhart and South Bend on its way to Chicago.
The Lake Shore was running an hour late, the train conductor informed me. As the train left South Bend station, I could hear an announcement saying the train would reach Chicago in about 15 minutes. It was 10.30am. The morning sun caressed the city skyscrapers as they greeted me when I peered out of the window.
Welcome to Chicago, the city where Swami Vivekananda opened his speech by greeting all Americans as “Brothers and sisters” and won their hearts at the Parliament of World Religions in 1893.
(To be continued)